tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC December 2, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
wegoted.com. "hardball" is next with chris matthews. see you tomorrow night. nobody's happy. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews from washington. leading off tonight, fire on the left, fire on the right. did he make the case? it is not hard to find criticism of president obama's speech last night on afghanistan. democrats don't want to send more troops and republicans don't like talk about setting a date for withdrawal. we talk to lawmakers on both sides of this fight at the top of the show. plus the white house party crasher story just got more interest lg. nbc news' savannah guthrie obtained e-mails between the pentagon employee. the big question, what happened? this afternoon we got word here the white house staff is accepting responsibility for not doing everything they could to
make sure those people did not get in the other night. they are going to make sure white house staff are posted alongside the secret service to check off the list of people invited properly to the white house. a big development there this afternoon. mike huckabee's troubles got a built worse today. the coordinator for his political action committee in arkansas resigned of huckabee's granting of clemency in the year 2000 for a man who went on to kill four policemen in washington state last week. did the race for the gop nomination next time get shaken up a bit? does this give sarah palin the field to herself? gay marriage fails in a state where advocates thought they had a real shot, new york state. that's in the "politics fix" tonight. check out this case of chair throwing politics. wow. it's not a fight over health care or afghanistan. a parliamentary session gone bad in argentina. we'll have that in the "sideshow." first, i've gotten very tough calls from parents of cadets and former cadets at west
point about my saying last night that the president had gone to speak up there to maybe the enemy camp. i was talking about the skepticism i saw on the faces in the crowd as president obama spoke. also, of course, how west point was where president bush went in 2002 to make his most hawkish speech before the iraq war. i have heard too many politicians say that was taken out of context to explain something they wish they hadn't said. let me say to the cadets, their parents, former cadets and everyone who cares about this country and those who defend it. i used the wrong words and worse than that i said something that is just not right. for that i deeply apologize. as those who watch me regularly probably got right away, my point was that the military up at west point was probably a skeptical audience for president obama given his strong position against the war in iraq. and generally more dovish image. i was wrong to make that conclusion based on the lack of applause or apparent enthusiasm
in the ranks of officers and cadets last night. cadets, one former cadet and a friend of mine told me cadets are not supposed to show reaction to a speaker. he, a former cadet, reminded me soldiers included those now in training to face the enemy, want wars to be fought effectively and ended as quickly as possible. i had no reason to assume the cadets at west point or their officers present last night are more hawkish than the president. people who have watched me over the years know i think of my strong devotion to this country and strong gratitude to those who serve it in the military. because our military is so good and true i want the civilians who make the policies and set the missions to get them right. in this country's best possible interests. by the way, it's something we're allowed to argue about in this country. whenever i meet someone with a service record i say thank you for your service. they know i say it and i hope they know i mean it. to president obama and the criticism he is facing from the left and the right. a few minutes ago i spoke with
democratic congressman jack murt murtha of pennsylvania, chairman of the subcommittee on defense appropriations. mr. murtha, the president wants 30,000 more troops to go to afghanistan and basically get the job done and begin to withdraw them a year and a half from now. does that make sense to you? >> well, what i'm concerned about is not the strategy because i was just in afghanistan over the weekend and i think it's probably the reverse of what we did in iraq. they are trying to help people. they are trying to not kill people. what i worry about is contractors, i worry about the cost and i worry about the fact that i'm not sure that there's as much a threat to our national security as they're indicating. we're going to look into that before we have hearings on the money. our debt, our national debt, chris, is going to be $800 billion. the interest on the debt. so we've got a lot of concerns here and the president said last night in a little meeting we had
before he made his tv appearance, he said we are going to work something out on the pay. i'm looking forward to trying to work that out. >> mr. murtha, you are a combat veteran from vietnam. do you think it makes sense to send our forces to defeat the taliban in afghanistan that it will somehow defeat the al qaeda forces in pakistan? it strikes me as a rubik's cube. how this work. how does it work as you see it? >> well, this is the very thing that we're worried about. al qaeda is not only in pakistan but they're all over the world. the taliban are actually people that have worked with the al qaeda, but i just -- i worry that there's not that threat to us. all of us want to make sure there is no threat to the united states. all of us realize we are in afghanistan in the first place because of a threat to the united states. i'm not convinced the threat in afghanistan is the key. if we can't get to pakistan and i hope the president is going to address this, make sure the pakistanis are doing everything
they can. you have to work with india to reduce pressure on the pakistanis. this is a very complicated thing and very costly operation. it costs, we estimate, $400 for a gallon of fuel and there's only 10% literacy rate in afghanistan. we have a lot of problems facing us. 104,000 contractors already in afghanistan in addition to the 68,000 troops. we are going to have more troops, chris, than the russians had in afghanistan. >> do you think the american people should be taxed more to pay for this war, this surge? >> i think we should have been paying for the war the whole time. i voted against every one of bush's tax cuts because i felt we should have been paying for the last war. the deficit is a real concern to me. the fact we are losing our economic edge all over the world because of the money we're spending overseas when we've got so many needs in this country.
we have a ways to go yet. there's a lot of consternation on the floor. a lot of people are concerned about the direction it's going. as i told rahm emanuel last night as i left that little meeting, i said, rahm, the president did as good a job he could do, but i'm still not convinced that we need to send these troops and that there's an achievable goal and how do we measure that goal? those are the things that worry me. >> when you read the newspaper articles that leak out, the vice president joe biden and rahm emanuel are on one side and the former first lady, hillary clinton, the secretary of state and the military are on the other side. would you have been with biden arguing for a different course had you been on the inside? >> one of the things they are doing in talking to general mcchrystal, they're putting much more emphasis on training the afghans. this is something joe biden was interested in in the first place. they hadn't been doing that. they had 50% of the people they needed to train the afghans.
i'm convinced that is a crucial part of it. the other part that is just as important is how they treat the afghans. how they treat them in order to win their respect and so forth. i said general mcchrystal, there is no way you can do this. you are not going to have three years. you have a lot less time. if the president makes his this is before the president made his decision. i said, if the president makes this decision to increase the troop, you have a lot less time. the british general understood that. he was a two star working for general mcchrystal. he said we've got to the spring. we have to show progress. >> are you concerned the more troops we've sent to afghanistan, the higher the casualty rate? it's higher than it's ever been. could we be creating, to put it bluntly, more targets for the taliban and ieds? >> historically, the british were forced out, the russians were forced out. the more troops you put out there the more targets there are going to be. the main thing is is this essential to our national
security? is al qaeda so dangerous they are affecting our national security? we are going to have hearings next week with the intelligence people and with the secretary of state and secretary of defense. we are trying to make sure we cross every "t." then the cost of it. we are going to be careful about approving the money until we see exactly how much money the president is going to spend. >> thank you very much. u.s. congressman jack murtha of pennsylvania. thank you, sir. >> nice talking to you, chris. we bring in republican congressman mike pence of indiana, he sits on the foreign affairs committee. you heard jack murtha on the appropriations subcommittee. >> hi, chris. >> what do you make -- he made a strong surmise, he wonders whether afghanistan is in our essential national interest. with regard to what we have to do in pakistan. do we essentially have to fight this war to its conclusion over there? >> let me say, you know, one of the high points of the president's speech last night is he did take the time to walk the
american people back through the story of our military engagement in afghanistan. the president said last year afghanistan is a war of necessity. he took us all the way back to september the 11th when we were attacked from that country. i don't think too many americans are confused about whether or not al qaeda or their previous hosts, the taliban, represent a serious threat to the united states of america. it's one of the reasons yesterday despite my concern about the talk about timelines and artificial dates for withdrawal and war surtaxes, i commended the president for calling for reenforcements and i'm grateful that he did so. >> what do you make of that basic arc of 30,000 more troops speedily brought over there to serve the cause in the current counterinsurgency strategy of general mcchrystal but already the word we are going to begin to draw down in the summer, in fact, in july of 2011. we are in the internet age. we can only assume the taliban learned about that within seconds.
they are going to hoopla, we have to hold out until sometime in the summer of '11 and it's ours. are you worried about that? >> yeah. i think it is -- i think it is very problematic any time in a field of battle to tell the enemy when you will quit the fight. i raised that issue with secretary gates today at the foreign affairs hearing. >> yeah. >> he himself, chris, as i'm sure you know, as recently as september spoke against timelines and exit strategies. i rather liked your characterization last night if the taliban would put up, i think you said a post-it note, and said if their surge is beginning now, our surge will begin in july of 2011. what we ought to do, as secretary gates said as recently as september, we ought to make a
commitment to win, provide our soldiers the reenforcements they need and send an unambiguous message we are going to achieve a decisive victory. >> congressman, here is senator john mccain at that hearing with secretary gates. let's listen. >> you either have a winning strategy and do as we did in iraq and then once it succeeded then we withdraw or we -- as the president said, we will have a date of beginning withdrawal of july 2011. which is it? it's got be one or the other. it has to be the appropriate conditions or an arbitrary date. you can't have both. >> as i suggested we will have a thorough review in december 2010. if it appears the strategy is not working and we are not going be able to transition in 2011 we will take a hard look at the strategy, itself. >> congressman, i said something else last night. i want to know if you agree with
that, i don't think you will, you can't repot afghanistan. it is in that part of the world. we know about the khyber pass and the pash chuns and their thoughts to the west. and it is a renegade country. do we have a chance of changing the nature of that country in the reasonable near term? like five years even? can we do it in that period? can we even -- jack murtha was raising the question, we might be able to make a change in ten years but the american people will not submit to a ten-year war plan. your view. >> you know what? i think we are talking about an extraordinary people when we talk about the afghan people. i have been to afghanistan several times. i have been to the khyber pass. this is a proud and independent nation. i don't think we need to change the character of afghanistan. rather, what we need to do is -- and the president alluded to this, we need to stand up the civilian and domestic security
forces sufficient to protect themselves and we need to do everything possible on the front end to defeat the taliban and defeat al qaeda before we head home. i really do believe that the lessons of september the 11th and frankly the lessons of charlie wilson's war is we need to finish the job there. we need to give our soldiers first and then the afghan people the resources to stand up against the extremists of the taliban or al qaeda. i'm believing that the counterinsurgency strategy the president embraced last night will work if we give it a chance in afghanistan every bit as much, chris, as it worked in iraq. we are employing the basic surge strategy. that did turn things around in iraq in 2007. i appreciate the president for embracing that. i hope we give it a chance to succeed. >> i appreciate you coming on. u.s. congressman mike pence of
indiana. coming up, the white house admits it did not do all it could do to help the secret service the other night in keeping the wrong people out. you got a look at them. interesting development now. they are going to be standing guard at every social occasion alongside the secret service. big development. just broke late this afternoon 20 minutes before we went on the air. the full story with savannah guthrie.
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>> welcome back to "hardball." that was joe biden explaining the advantages of commuting from delaware to washington all these years and not knowing people like these and they were basically crashers. the couple that crashed the white house state dinner for the prime minister of india. the white house deputy chief of staff sent out this memo. it just got out a couple minutes ago, titled, i love this formality, review of white house procedures during the state dinner and new guidelines. there it is. quote, after reviewing our actions it is clear the white house did not do everything we could have done to assist the united states secret service in ensuring only invited defts enter the complex. white house staff were walking back and forth outside between the check points helping guests and were available to the secret service throughout the evening but clearly we can do more and we will do more. where is this going? savannah guthrie, nbc white house correspondent, eugene robins robinson, pulitzer prize winning
journalist worthy of this title tonight. savannah, the deputy chief of staff put this baby out. not the chief of staff. your thoughts on what they are up to now? >> reporter: this has been an interesting development because earlier in the week, in fact i think it was monday, the first opportunity all of us had to ask the white house about this on camera, robert gibbs made a point to say they weren't examining their procedures. the secret service acknowledged the error. that it was the secret service problem alone, essentially, and they weren't going to do a review of any social secretary procedures could have exacerbated the problem or could help them on the other hand. gibbs softened that the next day on the "today" show saying we want to be helpful. now on the third day we have this from deputy chief of staff jim ma cina saying we're going to have new procedures and put social secretary staff at the checkpoints, they'll be responsible for checking guests off the list.
they were available. obviously there was a breakdown here. one that may not have happened, perhaps, speculating, if there had been social secretary staff at the checkpoint. >> what did the white house say? did they say anything about the report from roxanne roberts who covers these events from the "washington post" saying the evening of she went up to two white house staffers and told both of them there were interlopers in the room. how did they explain it? how do they explain the fact they got advanced warning of these crashers? >> reporter: well, as i said, up until basically today they've really been putting off those kinds of questions and kind of underscoring that it was a secret service error. there is no question about that. the secret service acknowledged at least one of its officers passed these people through having looked at the actual guest list, not seeing them on it but them passed them to the next chest point. the salahis, themselves, say they had their i.d.s checked
three different times and still were allowed to go through. basically up until this point, what the white house has done is really underscored the fact that this was really a secret service error. this is the first acknowledgement that the social secretary's office may have played a role here. >> what i find interesting as always is power. i see here if you read this memorandum that came out from the deputy chief of staff, rahm emanuel chief of staff, below him, jim messina. jim messina, says, quote, i met with the office of the social secretary which had the lead on the event as well as other departments to review the procedures, thereby establishing the decisions and the discipline will come from the top, i think. >> yeah, right. they will come from the top. this is embarrassing. this is a glitch. you can kind of understand how it might happen at a first state dinner. and this and that. it really shouldn't have happened and it shouldn't happen again. doesn't it make sense to have someone from the social
secretary's office there were the list in case, for example, some huge democratic donor forgot his driver's license? okay? >> let me try to remind you because you are an old pro like me i'm and i'm almost as much of a pro from a different perspective. savannah, it is issues like this that seem small to the public that cause a real problem down the road. it seems like they were smart to deal with it today. back when i worked in a white house, the jimmy carter white house, burt lance got in trouble in the beginning. everyone circled the wagons, including the late jody powell. everybody got really ticked at the press for continuing to pound on this issue. there became a personal rift between the people working for the president and the people covering the president even though it seemed like a small issue at the time. is this like that? is this why they had to pop the boil today, why messina had to
move and smarten out the operation? >> reporter: i think so. the posture we had on monday where they were taking no responsibility whatsoever, not making the quite unremarkable statement they will look at every procedure, it extended the story by a few days. instead of the focus on this couple that allegedly crashed the party or secret service that it acknowledged blame, people started asking questions. well, what about the social secretary? why was she a guest at the dinner? there was a tough piece in the "washington post" about the social secretary. i think they all recognize, look, perhaps we played a role here. we don't have to say it's all our fault, but we can do better. i think that is what you're seeing here. jim messina, deputy chief of staff trying to get a lid on this and get this story behind them. there is a lot of frustration we are all still talking about it. >> mb made a difficult -- earlier today we got the word that the white house basically used executive privilege to deny desiree rogers the social secretary, the personal option
of going to the hill to testify against the bennie thompson committee tomorrow. that would have been the big story in your paper and across the country. >> they prevented that story. >> by fixing the problem. the lights are on and somebody is home. >> the lights are on. >> the piece is about desiree rogers that will continue to get good press now that this issue's been dealt with. savannah guthrie calmly on the story. i know there is a tempest at the white house these days. thank you, savannah guthrie, from the white house for nbc news. thank you very much. eugene robinson, thank you, sir, for handling this in pulitzer fashion. google releases its list of the most buzz worthy names of the past year. the names people searched. how you drop in importance over the year. it is kind of painful, actually. we are going to jump to that in "the sideshow." right past the counter... and you get to choose any car in the aisle. choose any car? you cannot be serious! okay. seriously, you choose.
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back to "hardball." time for the "sideshow." first up, it's year-end list time. google put out it's review of the most buzz worthy people and topics of 2009. the 15-minute list. the people who had their andy warhol episode of fame without meaning to. number four, john edwards, news of the campaign affair only got worse in '09. number three, rod blagojevich. old b-rod. look for him in 2010 as well when he faces his corruption trial. ahead of b-rod, south carolina's and, of course, south america's governor mark sanford. taking the top rise, bernie madoff. bernie madoff. the man who came to symbolize wall street corruption. love that name, madoff, as in made off with the money. google put out a list of fastest-falling terms. people who have gotten fewer
searches of their name as the days have gone by. number five, sarah palin, though i bet her stock will rise again soon. nudging her out at number four, barack obama, and the fastest falling search term this year, you might have guessed it. john mccain. of course, all three of them ended their campaigns in 2008 which probably accounts for the loss of online interests. next, think the debate over health care is out of control? check out this scene at a local parliament in argentina yesterday. look at this. this fight broke out after the legislatu legislatuor chess presidential election. members of the new president's own party called him a traitor as most of the votes came from the other party. what a picture. are mike huckabee's days as a presidential contender over? is he huck-a-was? he commuted the sentence of the guy who shot those police officers, all four of them in washington state and then got gunned down himself. does that open the door for
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here's what's happening. the army today charged the ft. hood shooting suspect with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murders. those charges relate to the 30 soldiers and two police officers injured in the attack. lawmakers in new york state voted down a bill legalizing gay marriage. the outcome not a surprise to come. advocates are glad the legislature allowed a debate on the measure. eight-year government ban on stem cell lines for research was lifted today. scientists will have access to b initial 13 lines. tiger woods isn't saying what he did well but apologized today for, quote, transgressions
he deeply regrets. after a cocktail waitress claimed to corko karey out a lo affair with the golfer. bank of america getting ready to pay back bailout funds. that's the very latest. now let's go back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." the murder of four police officers out in washington state last weekend is a tragedy, of course, and while our thoughts we rain focused on their families and community and loss of life there is a delicate political issue for mike huckabee who granted clemency to the now dead suspect who was shot by police and assumed to have been the person who committed those killings of those police officers. he commuted his sentence for serious crimes in 2000 and conservative critics are hammering huckabee. is his political future over?
can he run for president in 2012 as he did before? mark mackinnon is a contributor to the fabulous "daily beast." willie horton comes to mind. al gore dug up that sugar plum on mike dukakis and worked out against him and the republicans lashed him with that issue in '88 and helped george h. walker bush get elected president. is this guy going to be willie hortoned, mike huckabee? >> he already is. rush limbaugh is already equating maurice clemens to willie horton and mike huckabee to dukakis. mike huckabee probably has a great future on fox news or a motivational speaker. but his career in politics is done. stick a fork in him. in america today, given -- the problem for this -- the incident, itself, is bad enough, but there is a pattern. as governor he granted clemency
and pardons to over 1,000 prisoners, three times granted by three former governors. and so this is a problem. this would be a problem in a general election for huckabee. this will be a primary issue in the republican primary where law and order issues are really salient. this is a real problem for mike huckabee and it ironically just a few days ago polling came out that showed that huckabee was not only leading the republican field but was within four points of president obama. this is a spectacular fall. >> is this considered a human fault? let's get down to this. norman mailor helped abbott get out of prison and he knifed somebody in a bar fight after that. when you show christian charity to someone basically stuck with a life sentence you are basically carrying them the rest of their lives, aren't you? you are responsible for everything they do henceforth, aren't you? >> you really are. absolutely. having worked for a number of
governors, every one of them that i worked for said these issues and death penalty issues were absolutely the hardest issues they had to deal with. you know, clearly mike huckabee has a compassionate component to his thinking and, you know, he is a deep christian. i'm sure that factored into a lot of his thinking. precisely those things that create a practical political problem for him. in reality it may have been seemingly the right thing to do at the time, though i'm sure the victims of the shooting would disagree. >> his potential opponents are circling. tim pawlenty, former governor of minnesota, still governor, told laura ingraham, our colleague on radio, quote, i don't think i've ever voted for clemency. we've given out pardons when everybody has served out their term, but, again, for minor offenses. clemency, certainly not. commutation of sentences, certainly not. he put a knife in. you said the fork is in.
the knife is in from pawlenty. it looks like the competition has begun. we haven't heard from mitt romney. this does -- you're an expert. i want to ask you an expert's question. does this clear the field on the right for sarah palin? i thought huckabee was her biggest obstacle come the iowa caucuses. >> it creates a huge opening and perhaps just the spiritual nudge that sarah palin talks about. she looks for doors opening to give her thoughts about what her next moves might be. this might do just that. mike huckabee was soaking up a lot of that oxygen on the christian right. and the iowa primaries. with him gone there is a huge opening for sarah palin or rick santorum. sarah palin has got a great deal of attention right now. >> huckabee is a smart fellow, mark. i want to give him credit as you say he is headed out of the field. didn't he say a while back when the birthers were going after the president saying he wasn't born in the country, he was somehow illegitimately a candidate, illegitimately
elected, he said to his conservatives, don't you think hillary clinton would have found this out and used it against him if it was true? that is a tough point. in other words, i'm not a birther because i think hillary clinton is a lot smarter and tougher than you guys. >> that is why i like mike huckabee. he's an entertaining guy. he has been a good elected official. he is good for the republican party. brings a lot of optimism and good policy problems to the table. we're going to miss him, but he won't be there, chris. >> here is what he said in his defense "it really does show how sick our society has become that people are more concerned about a campaign three years from now than those grieving families in washington state. it is disgusting but people use anything as a political weapon. i wonder if he isn't overstating, well, overstating what he grew up with, politics ain't bean bag. >> this is practical reality in american politics, chris. >> let me ask you about the
field, now that you've become an expert, you're always an expert, mark mcconditionen. the republican field for president in 2012. you have included the name scarborough on that list. that is fascinating. i think joe is a hell of a communicator should he change fields. why did you put him on that list as a potential? what do you think you know we don't know? he's got the right stuff? what do you think? >> well, i think he appeals to people like me. there are a lot of republicans out there that aren't happy with the perspective field out there. i think he surprises folks with the position he takes. i think he is a genuine conservative but takes moderate progressive positions. he doesn't just drink the kool-aid on a lot of issues and a fairly independent thinker. he has obvious media savvy. i think he'd light up the boards immediately if he were to take the step and i encourage him to do so. >> you encourage him to do so. you want to run his campaign?
>> certainly -- i'd be glad to hold the flag and encourage others. >> i'm just teasing. it is interesting. thank you, mark mackinnon. president obama made the decision on afghanistan. now the hard work beginning to sell to left, right and center. the independents are going to be tough, too, not just the liberals.
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we're back. time for the "politics fix" with "newsweek's" howard fineman and an msnbc political analyst and "the new york times" columnist bob herbert. gentlemen, heavyweights for heavyweight question. that's the president. it looks to me based on our interviews with jack murtha and mike pence this is going to be an odd campaign on the hill. the president having a tougher fight with the democratic party, somewhat easier fight with the republican party. i was watching that mayhem down in argentina where the president, that local parliament, got elected by the other party and the chairs started -- the chair throwing started. are we going to see chair throwing, bob herbert, because the democrats are enraged a war is being prosecuted by their president of their party and the votes of the other party? >> i don't think we will see chair throwing but you are right about democrats being upset and liberals especially are angry. barack obama came to prominence essentially fairly or unfairly
he came to prominence as an anti-war candidate. now, he always, you know, stressed that he -- he was against -- when he said he was not against all wars, he was against dumb wars. he said iraq was a dumb war. he did not characterize afghanistan that way. but i must say people did not take -- maybe they were projecting but they did not take away from his candidacy the idea he was going to escalate in afghanistan the way he's chosen to do. >> even though he said he thought we needed two to three more combat brigades during the campaign? >> i think an awful lot of people were watching that campaign and thrilled with obama and hearing what they wanted to hear. >> howard, is that true? >> i agree with that completely. it's the war that made him and it's another war that may unmake him here, because he really put a huge bet on here. however careful and grim and
almost woeful his presentation was last night in saying, look, we've got to do this. we don't like it. it's bloody, it's costly, but we have to do it. choosing the backdrop of west point to actually speak to the left wing of his own party. he wasn't speaking to the soldiers there, but the left wing of his own party. he set the stage for internal conflict. in talking to democrats on the hill today, he's got a tough sell. they are going to send up the national security adviser for a secret briefing tomorrow in the basement of the capitol with all senators. >> what is the secret? this is interesting reporting, howard. what are the secrets they want to tell members of congress the president won't tell us? the secret reason for war? >> my guess would be and it is instructly conjecture on my part, that they're sending the national security adviser general jones in there to talk about the semi-unspoken part of the strategy which is pakistan. i'm just guessing here. the ways in which what we do in
afghanistan can be helpful to us in pakistan. that is politically difficult to talk about in public because of the sensitivities of the pakistanis. >> it's so tough to go to a parent or loved one of someone who's fallen in battle, rob, i mean, bob, it's so hard to say your son or daughter was killed fighting the taliban so that the politicians in islamabad and the country next door will get serious about fighting the people that attacked us on 9/11. it is a rube goldberg. i can imagine a weird cartoon where a punching bag hits this and a bucket falls over and that leads to something else. maybe it's what got me so frustrated last night. this argument we are fighting one crowd so the other crowd will fight some other crowd. >> it is incoherent. you're correct. i mentioned in a column that presidents are very seldom straight with the public, publ politicians, not just presidents, are very seldom straight with the public when it comes to warfare.
the reasons, the ins and outs, the behind the scenes maneuvering and that sort of thing. very seldom do they come out and tell you the straight truth. so, for example, obama was conveying two messages last night. one was we're going to send these 30,000 troops in there. the other was, this is allegedly the beginning of an exit strategy. those are just two messages that are in conflict. i don't care what kind of contortions you go through trying to explain it, that's in conflict. and i would be very, very, very surprised if 2011 rolls around and the administration doesn't say, well told you when the president made his speech back in 2009 that he would make a decision based on what's going on on the grounds. that he said there would be, perhaps the beginning of an exit in 2011, but that determination would be made by the facts on the ground. i do not expect any kind of big
de-escalation in afghanistan in 2011. >> i agree. i think people have this idea of july 2011 emblazoned in their heads right now as the beginning of the end of this war. >> well, he said, to begin, subject to further review. >> exactly. >> well, first of all, i hate to make a joke out of such a serious topic, but the great marx brother movie where groucho sings the song, "hello, i must be going." this is like, hello, i must be going. but you have to look at this in the framework of the 2012 election, which obama, i guarantee you, has that clock ticking in his head. there will be some de-escalation. bob may be right, it's not going to be a big de-escalation, but i guarantee you, the movement of troops, the arrow is going to be out by the summer of 2012, not the summer of 2011. >> quitting time -- >> there's no question. >> quitting time is not a good argument for a war. you have to sort of say, winning
time. it's very hard to get juiced up about a war, especially if you have to fight one. it's already on the clock. it's already said, this is going to be over, so everybody knew their magic number in vietnam. now the whole army's going to know the magic number, which is july 2011. >> uh i think sort of the tone or the language of this has changed somewhat. it's less about eradicating -- although he does use the word -- the president last night did use the word "defeat" al qaeda. >> finally, after dismantle. >> but the tonality of it is not that we're ever going to eradicate them, but we're going to try to keep the pressure on them. there's a lot of language about keeping the pressure on. that doesn't sound like the kind of war that most americans understand. >> it reminds me how they say they're going to reduce the amount of ant hairs in your hershey bars or some other candy product out there. walter cronkite once went on television and said, under some new agriculture law, there are only going to be so many animal
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so you can get back some of what you lost. do not take actonel if you have low blood calcium, severe kidney disease, or cannot sit or stand for 30 minutes. follow all dosing instructions. stop taking actonel and tell your doctor if you experience difficult or painful swallowing, chest pain or severe or continuing heartburn. these may be signs of serious upper digestive problems. promptly tell your doctor if you develop severe bone, joint or muscle pain, or if you develop dental problems, as serious jawbone problems have been reported rarely. the more you know about osteoporosis, the more you'll want to ask your doctor if once-a-month actonel is right for you. (announcer) if you can't afford your medication, visit actonel.com to find out how the alliance for better bone health may be able to help. we're back with howard fineman and bob herbert for more of the politics fix. bob, howard, and i probably all agree that the younger generation has a different view on same-sex marriage than most people over 40. in fact, if this country were
only composed of people under 40, it would probably be passed. but that's not reality. older people vote, older people have influence. and in the new york senate, same-sex was just defeated 24-38 in a state most people consider fairly liberal. your state, bob. >> yeah. new york is fairly liberal when compared to other states, but when you start talking about legislatures and gay marriage, i think you can, for the most part, forget about it. i never thought that would pass in new york. there's a point i would like to make. new york state is in desperate fiscal trouble. it's right at the edge of a budget cliff. and the legislature up there in albany cannot get its act together to the deal with the state's financial problems. but it could get its act together to defeat this legislation. very interesting, their priorities there. >> well, are they related at all, howard? a lot of people think partners, benefits, and all those things become issues -- >> oh, i don't think this was about economics. i think it's about culture.
and as bob well knows, upstate new york is an entirely different universe from the city. and this is one of the places where upstate legislators who feel ignored and abused and led around by the power of a down state can rebel. and my guess would be, if you looked at the map of new york state, most of the opposition was upstate. which is culturely still -- even though it's become more democrat -- >> here in d.c., we have a very liberal community on most social and economic issues. and the d.c. city council has moved already on this and i guess they might have some congressional review, at some point, on this. but clearly, this is a community we're in right now which is very pro same-sex marriage. in fact, it's become a big issue, like so many issues have with the catholic church and its huge role in socials in this town. >> yeah. it's huge. washington is, i think, an anomaly when you start talking about legislatures in this
country. it's very liberal and it is supporting gay marriage, but i think, politically, the deck is stacked against it, which is why you have people like president obama and secretary of state hillary clinton and so many others who are out there on record as not being in favor of. >> well, you look at the numbers, chris, there are 31 states in this country that have, by referendum, gone on record through votes of the people saying they don't want same-sex marriage. versus six jurisdictions that have it. >> so i have a question for everybody. is same-sex marriage a right or something up for the legislatures to vote on? i think some people down the road, the people pushing rightly or wrongly for gay marriage are going to say, this is a right, it isn't up for a vote. >> good luck with the current united states supreme court on that one. >> thank you, howard fineman. >> bob herbert, thank for joining us. "countdown with keith olbermann" starts right now.